Monthly Archives: January 2011

Taking Steps Towards Greener Living

Wondering how to get started towards a smaller eco-footprint? A more natural lifestyle?  We talk about these things as if we all know – and agree – what they mean.  “Going green” might take on a different meaning for each of us. Contrary to popular myth, going green doesn’t mean you must wear Birkenstocks or dreadlocks. It doesn’t mean you vote one way or another. Some of my best friends and neighbors are of opposing political views. But there’s one unifying issue we all see eye to eye on: wanting to live as healthy and naturally as possible. We shouldn’t make assumptions – what we should do is figure out individually what we want “green” to mean. Is your priority on family’s health? Our planet’s health? Saving your cash resources? Our natural resources? Is it climate change? Whatever motivates you, it’s crucial for you to try and get information from as many sources as possible. Think of me as a little nudge, a helpful friend, but certainly not the authority. There isn’t one single authority anyway. Secondly, prioritize your steps – go for those that are easiest, most cost effective and/or most important to you.   

There are a ton of Top 10 Ways to Go Green lists online. We’ve found some that were too simplistic to be helpful. Others that were overly confusing. So we’ve compiled our own list.  All these ideas could, or should, save you time or money… maybe even the planet. Or at least your small piece of it.

There are 10 key areas I use to organize my thoughts, and efforts, around:

  • Energy
  • Water
  • Transportation
  • Diet
  • Plastics
  • Shopping & Consumption
  • Garden & Yard
  • Trash (solid waste management)
  • Chemicals
  • Learning

In the coming weeks, I’ll focus on one or two of these areas at a time and share some of my favorite ways to make changes. I’d love to hear yours. Until then, why not test your knowledge on a variety of Green subjects:

National Geographic’s Green Guide Quizzes

Going with the New Year’s Flow

a simple breakfast comes from foraging

a simple breakfast comes from foraging

I love milestones. And the changing of the year is one of the biggies for me. Time to celebrate. Time to take stock. What’s working? What’s not? What do you want to keep from last year and take into the next? What can you do better? (aka New Year’s resolutions). Never thought much of the “resolutions” aspect. Just the word sounds like drudgery you’re resolved to perform; or at least attempt. And aren’t resolutions all pretty much the same for most of us? Let’s see…get more exercise, eat better, slow down, spend less and live greener.

A friend just asked me what my resolutions were going to be For 2011 – and I had the funny realization that this year it’s backwards. It’s more about my life changing me, rather than me trying to change my life.

I’ve just kicked off a two month stint as tropical innkeeper. This alone will probably cause me to exercise more, eat less, slow down considerably, spend almost nothing and overall live a lot more sustainably – just by way of the island of Vieques, and its lifestyle.

I can’t call it a “sabbatical” or even a working vacation. Because it’s all work and no vacation! I don’t know if I’ll get a day off for the next two months – honestly. I’ll be making beds, fixing toilets and doing tons of laundry and email. But nonetheless, it will be spent in a vacation destination and yes, throughout the day, palms will rustle, tropical frogs will chirp, and I’ll return calls from my swaying hammock. So while it is work, it’s work I love. The kind where you see the fruits of your labor – from hanging laundry to painting a table, or pointing guests in the right direction to a quiet beach or great little local restaurant. And therein lays the best part of the job: working with guests.

Maybe it’s the mother in me, or maybe it’s that I always wanted to be a teacher – but I sort of cherish the guests’ learning as a key aspect of the finca. So in running the place as simply as possible, it’s a goal that folks leave their stay with us seeing how easy it is to live more simply. Call it “greener,” making do with less. Here at the finca, you can’t help but see that you, in fact, don’t need to use, buy, and do all the stuff we usually fill our lives with.

So while it’s on-the-job training for me, it’s on-vacation-simple living-training for the guests. They’ll be doing without a lot of things they are used to, and loving it.

For the next two months I’ll live in a tiny cabin next to a small banana grove. We have electricity, hot water and two gas burners to cook on. We’ve even added a bathroom so it’s not really “roughing” it – but it is simple. Furniture is expensive and hard to come by. And really, why bother when you’d rather be outside anyway? Nature and the climate are in charge here. If it’s pouring we don’t work outside. We work early before the heat of the day. When it’s really raining and blowing hard, we’ll even close the doors that are usually open all day and night. No AC, no TV. No WiFi or movies, dishwasher or dryers.

We recycle everything we can and reuse the rest. A wooden box makes an end table, a palate makes a deck screen, old beach towels make cleaning rags. Think I’ll learn to crochet with those darn plastic shopping bags the stores still use here with reckless abandon. Down the road there’s a bar with a patio canopy made of beer cans. I didn’t pack any jewelry and I doubt I’ll miss it. Don’t need to wear makeup (do we ever?) or go shopping for anything other than groceries for two wonderful laidback months. Heck – even at the stores here, you buy, cook and eat what was delivered in a week. No other place to go – so you make do, and learn to get really creative with rice and beans.

So what does this all have to do with new years? And resolutions?

Allowing myself to simply “go with the flow,” to learn, and love that I’m not in charge, is my highest New Year priority; to take advantage of this amazing place and opportunity to its fullest potential. Somehow I feel confident that all those other classics will fall right in line: Get more exercise, eat better, slow down, spend less and live greener.